Help planning Ireland/Scotland trip

We are looking into a trip, 8-11 days long, to parts of Ireland and Scotland for late May 2013. These are two countries my husband and I (both in our 30s) have wanted to visit for some time. Based on everything I read, it may be impossible to fit both into the length of our trip, but we'd love to try. We don't want to make it a rushed trip and do want to let the experiences soak in. If this means skipping some attractions, that would be fine. What appeals to us: - seeing striking natural scenery, including coastal - short hiking excursions / short bike trips - traditional music - seeing local art / craft - good local food - short walking tour(s) with local guide - an authentic distillery tour - getting the feel for the place, the life, and the people Things we are not so keen on: - monasteries / ruins / battle sights / monuments
- golf Some of the highlights that have stood out to me while researching the trip are the Scottish Highlands, Dingle Peninsula, Aran Islands, the Burren. We live and work in/near NYC, and while we do want to experience the cities of Dublin and Edinburgh, we'd like to skip crowds and very touristy places during the rest of the trip.

Posted by Elena
Westchester County, NY
4 posts

(continued from above)
I'd love your input and advice on points of interest and the logistics of this trip. Is it feasible to drive from Dublin to and around the west coast, then up to the Belfast area to take the car ferry to Scotland, drive to parts of the Highlands, visit Edinburgh, then drive back to Dublin? Are there parts of this trip that would be better done by train, or in a different order? I've read suggestions on flying into Shannon and out of Dublin but the cost of doing so is about double of a round trip to/from Dublin. It's also much more expensive to fly into Edinburgh from NYC than to Dublin. So, a bit at a loss here. It might be wise to see only one country on this trip but we'd love to see both, if possible. Your insights and tips will be much appreciated! Thank you.

Posted by Ray
Portland, Oregon, USA
1356 posts

hi, i would think that living/working in NYC and going to a city like Dublin/Edi would be like a "village" to you? I was in both Dublin and Edinburgh last march and even though it wasnt tourist season, i did not feel it was "crowded" at least compared to where i live/work and i PLANNED my trip to avoid crowds. Even in Paris/London it wasnt that bad. Where it was crowded was in the tubes @ rush hour and at the major attractions. just a comment. I am assuming you want to "drive" your car on the ferry to dublin? i just flew from dublin to the UK. To me it was faster. saving the slow boat trips for a later date. in RS book about Ireland/Dublin, he mentions a "irish music pub crawl" in dublin and if i remember correctly (iirc) its starts around 2000. I tried to make it, but missed the start so i have no idea on how good it was. happy trails.

Posted by Tod
San Diego, CA, USA
218 posts

Given your lists of likes you're definitely on the right track with Dingle for charm and music and the Burren for stark beauty - I especially liked the coastal area. While the Dingle peninsula drive has an archaeological (including ruins) theme it also has some great scenery and I found the Blasket Island museum a very interesting look into a lost culture. If you're doing the Aran Islands the Blasket Island might be overkill but it is a possibility from Dingle. In that area don't miss the Cliffs of Moher and nearby Doolin for music as well. Generally taking rental cars between countries by ferry is difficult or forbidden. (During 'the troubles' you couldn't even take rental cars between north and south Ireland.) I would look seriously into whether this is worth the effort or whether you should drop off the car in Ireland - plan to live car free for a few days - and then pick up another one. Maybe take the ferry and see Glasgow and then train to Edinburgh and grab a car for the highlands when you're done there. If you don't like crowds or touristy stuff avoid the Temple Bar area and Guinness brewery tours in Dublin. Many of the sites are deeply interwoven with Irish history so are less interesting without context. You didn't classify museums on your list but the archeology museum in Dublin is very, very good and in a magnificent building. The Trinity college tour which includes the Book of Kells is also interesting but is definitely a tourist stop. Bushmills is supposed to be the oldest running distillery in Ireland and is certainly accessible enough if you're doing the northern coast of Ireland. I don't know how touristy is but there are also many small distilleries in the Scottish highlands. Cadenhead in Edinburgh might certainly be worth a visit if you value Whisky and perhaps get visit recommendations there. Hope that helps - have a great trip!
=Tod

Posted by Ken
Spring, Texas
599 posts

My personal opinion is that trying to do Ireland and Scotland in 8 to 11 days is not enough time. That is especially true with you wanting to see the natural beauty, hiking and doing bike trips. I suggest you pick one and I suggest you pick Ireland for what you're looking for. Eleven days is a rushed Ireland trip and about right for a Scotland trip. Of course, there are people here that visit both areas year after year. If you want to try to do both, don't plan on driving a rental car between Ireland and Scotland. First, the ferry is really expensive and slow. Second, the rental car companies won't let you. Your best bet is a commuter air hop between your most convenient airports.

Posted by Dan
Denver, CO
29 posts

I agree with the post above - having been to both countries my favorite by far is Ireland. I was there in Sept. last year and from Dublin, drove north along the coast, through Belfast to Portrush. North of Belfast I could have pulled over about every 2 miles for fantastic views of the coastline. The Giant's Causeway, near Portrush was amazing as well. The Bushmills Distillery was nearby also, and I'd say it's a slightly better tour than Jameson's. For good coastline viewing and hiking, stop by an area called Slieve League, in the northwestern part of Ireland. Amazing views with good trails or areas just to wander around. You can't miss the Cliff's of Moher either. Amazing, as is the Dingle Peninsula. Also, Anchil (sp?) Island, just north of a great small town called Westport is another amazing side trip, and I recall you could rent bikes there as well. The town of Westport, while not right on the coast, is a hoot and there's a great pub there called Matt Malloy's. Full of characters and good music. A ton of great restaurants as well. Enjoy your trip!

Posted by VS
Palo Alto, CA, United States
556 posts

If it's eight days, I would stick to one country. If eleven, maybe Ireland and a flight into and out of Edinburgh from Dublin. You could also do a Scotland trip with a flight to Dublin, but the most exciting parts of Ireland are outside of Dublin. We did Ireland + Edinburgh in this manner in 2002 and it was a great trip. But, I wish we had more time in the Irish countryside as we spent five nights in Dublin (two too many) and three in Edinburgh, leaving only six nights for Ireland outside of Dublin (not nearly enough). Aran Islands and Scottish Highlands are far away from your points of entry if you are doing two countries. Edinburgh and Dublin are each worth three nights and two full days (assuming your day of arrival will be a jet lag day or spent mostly in transit.) That's six nights right there. I am planning our next trip to Ireland in the back of my mind, while at the same time planning a trip to U.K. which is up next for us. I am having a hard time fitting all we want to do in Ireland in two weeks, and that does not even include Northern Ireland. I always struggle with the less vs. more dilemma, and the more experienced I become as a traveler (11-12 trips since 1999) the more I want to slow it down and see fewer places in greater depth.

Posted by John
Glendale, AZ
8 posts

I agree with most of what has been posted. I just returned from about 10 days in Ireland and 11 days in Scotland. I would recommend you chose one or the other if you have only 11 days. As it was, I felt rushed. Your description of what you like describes Dingle, and the Dingle peninsula exactly, in my opinion. I plan to go back and just spend my time in the southwest coastal area. For scenic beauty, and definitely for getting away, in Scotland I would recommend the Isle of Skye. All of the highlands, including the area around Inverness is beautiful! With lots of time, there are some wonderful museums in Dublin, especially the museum of anthropology, or was it archaeology? Very interesting. But seriously, if you want to relax, just drive to the west coast of Ireland, get a good B&B, like the Towerview in Dingle, and relax doing day trips. I couldn't get out to the Aran Islands due to weather, but next trip it is high on my list.

Posted by Pamela
New York City, NY, USA
3313 posts

Yes, odd as it sounds 11 days would rush these countries. Scotland has all of what you're looking for, but you'll want to get out of Edinburgh after spending a couple of days there. The Hiking, or walking as the Scots call it, is great. I've done a fair bit of walking from a base hear Inverness. I've also enjoyed live music in Dunkeld, Edinburgh, Inverness and Strathpeffer. Oops, forgot Fortrose! I live in NYC so let me know if you want to meet up to discuss. Pam